The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king’s chaplain was so talkative and longwinded that nobody else could get a word in during conversations. And though the king looked, he could not find anybody who would interrupt him.
There was a disabled man so skilled at throwing stones that people wheeled him around and paid him to make shapes such as elephants or horses in trees by trimming the foliage. One day the king saw this man’s work and wondered if he could solve the chaplain problem. The king explained the situation to him, and the man said he could do it with a peashooter full of goat dung. Elated by the possibility, the king brought him to the palace and had him sit behind a curtain with a slit in it. The next time the chaplain came, he, as always, completely took over the conversation and the disabled man started shooting tiny dung pellets down his throat. When the whole load had been unknowingly swallowed, and the pellets were swelling up in the chaplain’s stomach, the king revealed what had just happened and why he had done it. He then sent the chaplain home with the instruction to take panic seeds to induce vomiting.
After this incident, the chaplain never again spoke during conversations with the king. The king was so grateful, he gave the disabled man four villages, making him very wealthy. After all this, the Bodhisatta told the king this was an excellent example of why wise people should try to master a skill.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The disabled man was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who was not very serious about his study and practice. One day after bathing in the river, this disciple saw swans flying by and boasted to another that he could kill one by throwing a stone through both of its eyes. After he did it, the other disciple reported him to the Buddha. After reprimanding this stone-throwing disciple, the Buddha told this story to explain that he had always had this particular skill.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.